A Northern Chorus and The Twilight Sad @ The Casbah, 4-17-2007
show review and pics by Natalie Kardos
I first heard of the Scottish band The Twilight Sad way back in November, when an EP they had recorded made an impression on the ears of a reviewer with musical tastes similar to mine. I picked up a copy of their EP and was likewise impressed. Their debut full-length album, released April 3rd, contains more of the same, great, shoegazey indie rock. So it was with great anticipation that I headed to the Casbah last Tuesday night to see them open, along with A Northern Chorus, for fellow countrymen Aerogramme.
First up was A Northern Chorus. The songs posted on their myspace page piqued my curiosity enough to get me out of the house in time to catch their set. And I was very glad that I did. They play indie pop with a touch of shoegaze and folk thrown in, and accent their songs with both violin and cello. Vocal duties are traded off between the two male guitarists and the female celloist, which gives each song it’s own personality. They played an extremely strong set (especially for an opener), and I recommend that you catch them the next time they happen through our little town.
The second band on the bill was The Twilight Sad. I suppose this isn’t the first time that a band with all the blog-buzz opened for a “lesser-known” band (see: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah opening for The National awhile back), but in my mind they were the band to see that night. They opened their set with the shimmery “And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth,” which, without the lyrics, would seem quite at home on an Explosions in the Sky album.
They followed that up with “Walking For Two Hours” and “Last Year the Rains Didn’t Fall Quite So Hard,” both of which expertly combine a guitar-generated wall of noise with emotional lyrics made even more poignant by the Scottish brogue that blankets them. As a segue to the next song (“Talking With Fireworks/Here, It Never Snowed”), guitarist Andy McFarlane played an eerily quiet guitar line, immediately followed by the singer and the drummer smashing the crap out of the drum kit and cymbals. For the rest of this song, which was the emotional high-point of the evening, the band alternated between quiet, gentle, sweet guitar-lined verses and the dramatic, drum kit-bashing break that served as a chorus.
James Graham’s performance throughout the show was entrancing – one second he would be getting rather intimate with his old-timey-looking microphone, the next he would be lifting it up or tilting it away from himself as he moved around the small stage. This was quite in contrast to the rest of the band’s members, who seemed rather stoic during the entirety of the short set. The last two songs contained the most emotional lyrics out of all six songs in the band’s set. In “Mapped By What Surrounded Them,” the singer reveals “In my dreams/I watch Emily dance” while the background vocalist sings, “She was taken far too young.” Melancholic, indeed. Their set closer “That Summer At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy,” recounts adolescent drama and alienation in all its desperate glory. “I’m fourteen/and you know/that I’ve learned the easy way/such stupid decisions/and with a broken heart/and they’re sitting around the table/and they’re talking behind your back.” Even with “a loving mother” and “a strong father figure,” Graham is yelling, rebelling, crying out against adolescent injustice and his inability to do anything about it. Quite the emotional set closer, if you ask me. This band manages to do what all the Dashboard Confessionals in the world could never do – make adolescent angst sound noble, not whiny.